“After he cooled out, we took him back to the farm (in Frankfort),” trainer William “Buff” Bradley said. “I took him out to his paddock at 6:30 this morning. He is doing great and we will keep him here the next five to seven days.”
It was a day of firsts for Brass Hat and for Bradley, who trains the 8-year-old gelding for his father. It was the first grass victory in eight starts for Brass Hat and first win in 609 days, dating back to the Sept. 22, 2007 Massachusetts Handicap. For Buff Bradley, it was also his first stakes victory at Churchill Downs.
“I believe it was my first stakes win there,” said Bradley, who saddled his first winner in 1993 at Churchill Downs. “It was pretty exciting with the home crowd cheering him on. It was a big boost to the whole barn and for my dad having the patience with him. There are not many 8 year-olds out there running.”
After the victory, Bradley mentioned the $750,000 United Nations Handicap (Grade I) at 1 3/8th miles on July 4 at Monmouth Park as the next possible target for Brass Hat.
“That would work out pretty good time-wise,” Bradley said. “The (Stephen) Foster in three weeks is too quick, plus you know that Einstein would be in there. We are not trying to run him (Brass Hat) in the ground.”
WOOLLEY EAGER TO TAKE NEXT STEP WITH MINE THAT BIRD – The countdown to the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) is on for trainer Chip Woolley and his Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird.
“I am definitely looking forward to it,” Woolley said of the June 6 Belmont Stakes. “He is starting to bloom already again. He is going to stretch his legs in the morning, working an easy three-eighths.”
Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, could be aboard for the work. Mine That Bird is scheduled to work after the mid-morning break for track maintenance.
After his Kentucky Derby victory, Mine That Bird ran second to Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in an effort that validated his Derby score to many.
Woolley already was convinced the Derby victory was no mirage.
“It was not a fluke in my mind,” said Woolley, sporting a huge new belt buckle acknowledging the Derby victory. “He got past 18 super horses in a quarter of a mile. That validated him to me. That was not impossible, but right next to it.
“The only other trainer I heard say it was not a fluke was Bob Baffert. He said flukes don’t win the Derby.”
Woolley is comfortable with Mine That Bird’s conditioning heading into the Belmont and not feeling any pressure.
“(Owners) Mark (Allen) and Doc (Leonard Blach) told me that at this point it is just a race at a time,” Woolley said. “Everything is gravy from here on out and just enjoy it.”
PREAKNESS, OAKS WINNER RACHEL ALEXANDRA SET FOR MONDAY WORK – Stonestreet Stable and Harold McCormick’s Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Preakness (GI) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) in her last two starts, is scheduled to work for the first time since her May 16 Preakness victory on Monday at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is scheduled to head to the track with the second set of horses for trainer Steve Asmussen around 6:15 a.m.
Rachel Alexandra galloped early Sunday morning under exercise rider Dominic Terry.
The filly’s status for the June 6 Belmont Stakes has not been decided. She has won six consecutive races. All of those wins came in stakes events in a string that started with last fall’s Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs.
EINSTEIN RETURNS TO WORK TAB WITH DRILL FOR FOSTER – Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein (BRZ) worked a half-mile in :49.40 with jockey Julien Leparoux up before the renovation break over a fast track on Sunday morning. It was Einstein’s first work since winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) on May 2.
“He was ready to do something,” trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said. “This was perfect this morning. He’ll work again next Sunday.”
The work, the first of three in preparation for the June 13 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I), was the highlight of the weekend for Pitts-Blasi, who celebrated a birthday Saturday and nearly got a victory in the final race when Fundy ran second in a maiden special weight race.
So, Helen, which was the most exciting aspect of the weekend: celebrating her birthday or watching Einstein work?
“Watching him work,” Pitts-Blasi said without hesitation.
In the Foster, Einstein will be trying to achieve a unique feat of sweeping three consecutive Grade I events on different surfaces. He won the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 over a synthetic surface and took the Derby Day race on turf. The Stephen Foster is run on the main track.
That first-ever sweep of consecutive races on the different surfaces would also make Einstein only the second horse to collect Grade I victories on traditional dirt, turf and a synthetic surface. Lava Man is the only horse to achieve that feat.
Einstein finished second to two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in last year’s Foster and returned in November to win the $500,000 Clark Handicap (GII) on dirt.
APPRENTICE LENCLUD MAKES U.S. DEBUT – Freddy Lenclud officially joined the Churchill Downs riding colony on Saturday when he made his United States debut aboard Causation in the seventh race. Causation, at 76-1 odds, finished sixth in the eight-horse field.
“It was fun,” said Lenclud, a 22-year-old native of France. “He ran OK. The trainer (Phil Thomas) said to sit back and finish down the lane.”
Lenclud, who won a couple of apprentice races last year in England, is working as an exercise rider for trainer Ian Wilkes.
“I came over here on holiday last year to visit a friend of mine, Florent Geroux, at Arlington Park,” Lenclud said. “I spent three months there and worked horses for Bill Mott. I really liked it and got to know some trainers. I came back in December and started working for Ian at Gulfstream.”
Lenclud would like to stick around Kentucky and ride later this year at Ellis Park and Turfway Park.
MILESTONE WATCH – Veteran Churchill Downs conditioners Lynn Whiting and David Vance moved to within one victory of joining the 300-win club beneath the Twins Spires on Saturday. Whiting won the opener with Keepinonestepahead for his 299th win and Vance equaled that two races later with Citizen John.
Vance sends out Silver Light in today’s second race in his bid for No. 300. On Monday, Vance will send out Pinpoint in the fourth and Silver Bayer in the seventh. Whiting has no starters today. Nine trainers have 300 victories or more at Churchill Downs.
Whiting’s most notable victory under the Twin Spires came with W.C. Partee’s Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. Vance’s most notable win was an upset by Carl Pollard’s Caressing in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).
Robby Albarado’s victory in Saturday’s fifth race aboard Tizsilk gave him 3,997 for his career. Albarado has six mounts today in his bid to become the 56th North American rider to reach 4,000 wins.
Ken McPeek, who has 999 career victories, goes for No. 1,000 in today’s seventh race with Cobbler’s Reef.
BARN TALK – Calvin Borel’s five-win day Saturday moved him past Larry Melancon and into third place all-time at Churchill Downs with 909 victories. Melancon has 907 wins. Next in Borel’s sights is Don Brumfield, who rose 925 winners at Churchill Downs. Pat Day is the all-time Churchill Downs leader with 2,482 victories.
Dolphus Morrison’s Abbott Hall, winner of the Happy Ticket last September at Louisiana Downs, was injured during her third-place finish in a turf allowance race at Churchill Downs last Friday. “She is at a clinic in Lexington and the vet over there said it is chunk, not a chip in her right front knee,” trainer Hal Wiggins said. “They might have to put a screw in it just to keep her comfortable.”
Nominations close Saturday for the five stakes that make up the June 13 Reunion Day card, highlighted by the $600,000-added Stephen Foster (Grade I) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Other stakes that day are the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis (Grade II) for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up going 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the $150,000-added Jefferson Cup (Grade II) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course, the $100,000-added Northern Dancer (Grade III) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16th miles on the main track and the $150,000-added Regret (Grade III) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
WORK TAB – Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) runner-up Stone Legacy worked a half-mile in :49.20 over a fast track Sunday morning for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The move was the 13th fastest of 62 at the distance. Owned by the Marylou Whitney Stable, Stone Legacy had finished sixth in the Black-Eyed Susan (Grade II) at Pimlico on May 15. … James Spence’s Flying Pegasus continued on the comeback trail with a half-mile work in :49.40 for trainer Ralph Nicks. The work was the second for Flying Pegasus since he was sidelined by a lung infection after finishing sixth in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II).
GENERAL ELECTRIC PARTNERS WITH CHURCHILL FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND GIVEAWAY – Churchill Downs has partnered with General Electric to giveaway GE stainless steel products in an on-track sweepstakes offer that continues through Monday’s finale of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.
A prize drawing is being conducted daily afterr the seventh race and that daily winner will take home his or her choice of a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher or microwave oven, courtesy of GE. Registration for the drawings is being conducted in a tent in the paddock area. The first 5,000 entrants each day will receive a free GE koozie.
Sunday, May 24 is “GE Day at the Races” at Churchill Downs. Employees of General Electric who show their employee ID badge at Gate 10 will receive complimentary admission for themselves and their guests, as well as reserved seating in either Sections 115-116 or Millionaires’ Row 6.
JUNIOR JOCKEY CLUB ACTIVITIES FOR MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY – Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club for children 3-10 continue through Monday’s final racing session of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Special activities between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. include decorating “Triple Crowns” on Sunday, and outdoor games on Monday.
The Junior Jockey Club is located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well, and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand each day for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m.
NO LIVE RACING THIS TUESDAY-THURSDAY, FREE ADMISSION TO THURSDAY SIMULCASTS – Following Monday’s special Memorial Day racing program, Churchill Downs will be dark on Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 28. There will be no on-site simulcast wagering May 26-27. Churchill Downs will be open for simulcast wagering May 28 and will offer free general admission for patrons to place wagers on outlets around the country in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse.